Monday, January 28, 2013

They're HERE! Breaking Open the NEW Sennelier Oil Pastels!

The cat is obviously oblivious to my sheer glee!

My box of 72 Sennelier oil pastels came today and it made my day! I ripped the box open immediately!

Here they are! I apologize for the soft photos, it was a very dark day today.

Close up of some of the reds, yellows and pinks
a touch of the greens and blues.

Gorgeous Red!

Beautiful pink!

So I grabbed something near by (in this case it was my grocery paper receipt) and commenced to do a quick little painting/sketch. I was talking earlier to a friend who is going on a trip to see the Mayan ruins so I guess that is what came through in my sketch.

About an inch and smidge high.
Notice the covering capabilities in the
blue highlights. They do cover very well. 

I used about 19 colours in this sketch.

So there you go a very quick update to the Sennelier fun saga. When I first opened the box I did get a sniff of something akin to volatiles but it didn't last too long nor was it overpowering. I have to be careful with that stuff.

I hope to do something more in the next week. Overnight I developed a cold (which has now turned into the flue) so I am feeling rather blech today but hope to be over it this week. My first impression though is that these are absolutely sumptuous! Stay tuned for more!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Trying Out Buttery Sennelier Oil Pastels!

Sennelier Oil Pastels - Box of 72

Okay, I was at Curry's online art store and just for the heck of it clicked on their clearance items. And their it was, a box of 72 Sennelier creamy oil pastels, on sale for about sixty bucks off. I have lusted after these for years but the price always prohibited me from picking them up. Not anymore.

I wanted the wooden box set of 120 pastels but hey, I can always buy the singles I want from the art store down town. I am totally stoked to use them in some small paintings I am doing now just to top up the finishing touches. I'll post my review of them and the pieces here as soon as I get them. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 21, 2013

In person Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the AGO!

One of my favourite photos of Frida and Diego at the AGO exhibit

I was so lucky today - a good friend of mine treated me to the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera AGO show that was closing at end of day today. There was a moderate crush of people at the sold out show and a good line up waiting to get in. 

We finally got and in spoke in excited hushed tones as we went from piece to piece together, waiting for heads to part so we could see the paintings unencumbered. Then it happened, I got stuck on a piece that I just couldn't leave. Much to my surprise it was a lithograph by Diego Rivera and not a painting.

"Zappata" lithograph by Diego Rivera
at the AGO exhibit

I was captured by the fantastic use of value here, the sheer beauty of how the horse is rendered and how well he designed the composition. Your eye goes right to the white horse and then ends up entering around it, the foliage, then your eye gets moved counter-clockwise, from the darkest darks (and area of highest contrast which is the focal point) to viewing the trodden on enemy soldier, rendered in a lighter charcoal value, then left again to his fellow soldiers in a lighter value of gray, then to Zappata himself and with his arm outstretched, to the horse again, which head tilted towards his human companion, sends the viewer back into the painting, via the Zappata figure and so on. This piece as in some of his others, there seems to be an active circular design at work. It makes his images move, seem alive if you will. Beautiful stuff.

Portrait of Natasha Zakolkova by artist Diego Rivera - 1943
oil painting at the AGO exhibit

This was quite an impressive painting colour, design and size wise. It felt more like a commission though rather than a piece done for other reasons. Either way it was impressive. The calla lily is evident in many of Rivera's works and harkens to his fascination with the Aztec era.

But for me, it was Ms. Kahlo's work that riveted me to the spot. It started with this photo of her.

Frida Kahlo photo at the AGO exhibit
She is not afraid of the camera and stands with a certain assuredness in her own experience and comfortable in her own skin. I love the way she meets the camera head on. It's brilliant. Ms. Kahlo, maybe in her early thirties, her hair cropped and growing out stares into the camera fearlessly, cigarette in hand. She knows what she knows and no body is going to take that away from her. THAT is the image that riveted me. I stood there, my eyes, my soul, locked to hers though that photo. Artist to artist, woman to woman, chronic pain endurer, to chronic pain endurer. Her strength, in spite of everything she had been through both physically and emotionally, was absolutely spell binding. 

I was surprised when I came upon a series of three of her sepia ink drawings. They were highly detailed and revealed a very capable artistic hand. I am a fan of sepia ink drawings so even though these were quite busy I still enjoyed them.

"Drawing with War Them" 1946 artist Frida Kahlo
For decades I had looked at her paintings online and in book form but seeing them in person was almost a surreal experience. The first self-portrait I laid eyes on was this one.

Frida Kahlo self portrait, oil, 1933

What is interesting with this one is that it seems that she didn't have quite enough room for the top of her head and had to squish it in, so to speak, to make it fit. Regardless, it's still a lovely painting. Her painting style is more attentive to the medium, if you will, then Rivera's. Maybe it's because he painted so large so often and had a lot of ground to cover, but it seems that she was more attentive to detail then he. 

"Eleonora di Toledo" 42" x 36 1/2" oil painting
artist Frida Kahlo - 1927

This painting was a real treat. I hadn't seen this one before and it's done in a style reminiscent of the art nouveau style that was evident at that time with a 16th century Italy taste to it. Frida supposedly admired Botticelli and Bronzino's work and it plays out here. The model's (her friend Alicia Galant) fair skin literally pops out at you so it is definitely the centre of the work but the little stars actually stand out a bit too, ever so sweetly.

"Dona Rosita Morillo" oil on masonite
24" x 30" (apprx.) artist Frida Kahlo

It's hard to find a good reproduction of this painting online and it's a great reminder of why it's SO important to see an artist's work in person. The original painting was so impressive. It has a regal quality to it and the likeness of subject's face, well, it felt like she was there, looking out at you almost a little unnervingly so. Just an excellent piece and for me, one of my favourite surprises of the show.

"Self Portrait with Monkey" Oil painting
artist Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo with deer fawn.

Frida loved animals as was evident by the many photos and paintings that show her in their company. Monkeys, dogs, parrots, birds, deer (obviously) and more. Life truly bloomed around her.

In stark contrast to this was her own interior landscape of barren suffering that she also poured onto her canvas. One of her most famous paintings of this is "Henry Ford Hospital" done just after losing her baby while with Diego in America, New York I believe.

"Henry Ford Hospital" oil on metal
12 1/2" x 15 1/5" (apprx.) artist Frida Kahlo

It's funny. I have seen this painting immortalized online, on tv and in the movie "Frida" but seeing it in person was astonishing. It's actually quite a small painting and most unassuming until you really look at it and note the subject matter. The narrative behind it, Frida's personal story of sadness and tragedy of having, yet again, another spontaneous abortion. She so wanted children. And it happened in a cold and inhospitable place to her as illustrated by the cold and sparseness of the painting with it's nod to smokestacks, industrialization and mechanization. 

"The Broken Column" oil on masonite
12" x 16" apprx. artist Frida Kahlo

And her famous "The Broken Column" painting was there. Some people have postulated that with the trauma of the initial accident and following multiple operations that Ms. Kahlo suffered Fibromyalgia - that was indicated by the placement of all the nails in her skin and body. It is highly possible and indeed she was incapacitated for months at a time because of pain. Having had five months myself of excruciating and debilitating lower back pain that left me a whimpering huddle on the couch, it gives me a glimpse of what she must have went through. The colours are somber, a demurred olive green barren landscape and subdued skin tones on what is usually depicted in her self-portraits as warm, vibrant and alive. That is what pain does, it drains you, of energy, life and the colour of life itself.

"Without Hope" oil on masonite
11" x 14" apprx. artist Frida Kahlo
Anyone who has lived with ongoing, life long pain and suffering understands this painting. Day turns to night turns to day and it doesn't matter cause you're stuck in bed, recovering again from that which was inflicted upon you and life feels like a burned out landscape and you're left to go over in your mind, over and over what you are left with - continued pain, loss, poverty, isolation, loneliness. Her only solace is literally to express this onto her canvas (note her modified easel lying over top of her). An uncomfortable but moving piece.

One of Ms. Kahlo's corset casts on exhibition at the AGO
And then I saw this, her body cast, a corset one. It was so, small. Frida was quite a petite woman but her spirit is so strong and indomitable that one forgets this fact. It was very touching to see it in person. The one depicted in the photo above was the actual one on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Frida Kahlo with friend and lover photographer Nikolas Muray
in her studio.

I loved seeing the studio shots of her. It's no secret that Frida had several affairs with men and women. Mr. Muray (shown above) also became a close friend. 

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
And perhaps this is one of my favourite images from the AGO show. It's a very dramatic and beautifully shot of the two artists. Their strength, conviction and ultimately, devotion to each other in their art and beliefs, in everything that made up who they were, is one of the world's greatest love stories. I feel so lucky, so privileged, to be given a glimpse into their lives. Much thanks to the AGO for putting together this show and to my friend, Echo, for taking me to it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Surreal Twilight Diptych!

10" x 7" original oil painting titled "Sun Setting Moon Rising" artist Gwen Duda

A 10" x 7" twilight oil painting titled "Sun Setting Moon Rising" that I had pretty much forgot about through all my moves in the recent years. I had done this painting during a solo gallery showing as an oil demonstration then it just got lost in the movings shuffle. Now I understand how artists can "lose" paintings. All it takes is a box to go missing.

Luckily here it is and I forgot how magical it was. Done straight out of my head, no reference shots. It's inspiration was all the twilight drives on the Canadian prairies, when the sun is setting and the moon rising and it's just plain magic!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kate Middleton's Portrait, Trash or Treasure?

Some love it but more hate it, Catherine (Kate) Duchess of Cambridge's first official portrait.

Since I spent several decades doing portraiture I can add my two cents into this kerfuffle as to whether or not this portrait of the lovely Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge cuts the mustard. Well, there are aspects that are nicely done, like her eyes, but, they seem dead, not like the sparkle that she has naturally. Here we have a beautiful subject, full of life with gorgeous chestnut hair but in this portrait, she looks much older than her years and the life is literally sucked out of her by the choice of the flat dead background.

Doing a portrait is more than just getting a realistic likeness (which the artist hasn't quite nailed). It's about getting the inner spirit of that person, the qualities that animate them, getting that across as well. In this, I am sorry to say, I feel that the artist has failed.

Unfortunately this portrait has the quality of a black velvet painting that gets sold out of back of vans on the intersections of state highways and busy town intersections in the summer. This is a woman in the summer of her beauty and life. One could do a portrait that would illustrate the inner private life without the dour, dark sombre colour choices. It looks like a grisaille painting and that just doesn't resonate quite right. I feel badly for the artist Paul Emsley as there are aspects that are quite lovely, but overall, it's a miss I am afraid.

Cobalt Blue!

From the Rembrandt Website, Cobalt Blue!

A nice little write up on the artist's pigment cobalt blue. It's a toxic pigment and one does have to use caution when working with it. Any WoW gamer will find the reference to "kobolds" amusing - that is how this mineral pigment first got it's name. The only inaccuracy is that at the end of the article it says that cobalt blue is opaque but it isn't. You can read the article here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NEW Pantone Colours for Spring 2013!

The NEW Spring Colours for 2013!

The official colour for 2013 is Emerald Pantone colour 17-6011. I don't mind emerald green and it's a nice counter-balance to the very hot tangerine colour of last year. I actually don't mind this colour palette. There's a lot of different colour theme match up possibilities here. Overall, a much better balanced palette than last year. Congrats Pantone!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Art Inspires Art!

After returning home I placed my two latest art pieces to my collection.
They're on the window sill,  a hand blown glass (votive holder) and
ceramic polar bear. I am thrilled to have them!!!

The Petroff Art Gallery in Toronto is one of my favourite haunts. I had come in earlier and spoken with
Steven Petroff. I had my eye firmly on a ceramic polar bear. She was beautiful. Yes, she was a she. I feel instantly, head over heels in love. But I hedged. It was near closing and I wasn't sure I should get her just yet. You know, the proverbial "Can I afford it?" and then the answer "No" and then the rebuttal "But I LOVE her". You know how it goes. Over and over this rolled through my head as I stood there staring at her. There was also the situation of being over burdened with groceries and I was afraid I might drop and break her. So, I decided, yes I could afford it (not) and would come back the next day to pick it up.

What follows is a word to the wise. When you love something, just buy the G-d damn thing! One thing led to another and I ended up not being able to get back to the gallery till weeks later. And sadly, my love, she was gone! I KNEW she would be. Lesson learned. But, I DID manage to find a smaller cousin of her's and he is just as sweet and cute AND he fits nicely on my window ledge in my studio. He's placed between my little Inuit gnarl whale soapstone sculpture (I lost the gnarl whale horn part after moving nearly 20 times), but it still looks beautiful. I also scooped a gorgeous hand blown glass vessel done by an Ontario artist. Both pieces are done by Ontario artists, both women actually.

And after putting them on my window sill I was so overjoyed that the urge to get down a new nature abstract idea came through loud and strong. So I grabbed some watercolour pencil crayons and quickly did up the sketch above. Art inspires art. Love inspires love. Life's just like that.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

NEW Painting for a NEW Year 2013!

"Insomnia Upside Down" 24" x 20" Acrylic Abstract on stretched canvas, artist Gwen Duda © 2013
To purchase click here.

I haven't been able to paint for months. My lower back had a complete meltdown and I was crippled with pain so bad I couldn't sit, bend or even walk. Things were bad folks, very bad. But today I went into the studio, frustrated at my ever increasing insomnia and just said **%$#^ it! If I can't sleep, I'll paint! And wallah, I started this painting at 9:30 am this morning and finished it around 12:30 pm with needed touch ups and varnishing. Yeah, I know, pretty damned good. I am most pleased.

So in spite of pain and insomnia I actually was able to paint and because I have been doing this for most of my life I have gotten to a skill level that when things work, they really work. I am most grateful. In fact, very, very grateful. I hope this is a great sign of great things to come this year. God knows, it would be most welcome.

Happy New Year all you art lovers out there! Happy New Year, indeed.